We didn't have to re-learn anything, because the chopper works like the tractor.
We didn't have to re-learn anything, because the chopper works like the tractor.
Wooded hills dot the landscape alongside open grassland and arable land. The corn is already chopped on some fields, on others it still stands tall. The Upper Palatinate east of Bayreuth is very picturesque. This is where the contracting company Enslein is based, founded 12 years ago by the plant manager. After graduating from agricultural college in Weihenstephan and doing some practical semesters, he knew he wanted to set up his own contracting company. The business grew little by little and expanded again four years ago, when another contractor cut down on his own work. Contractor Enslein took the offer and acquired the other firm's machines and customers. Today, its agricultural customers are made up predominantly of dairy farms and he explains, "we have up to 80 customers, which of course requires a lot of organisation on my part. But then again, I am more independent than if I worked for just one major customer. If that went wrong, it would make a noticeable impact on orders". Most of Enslein's customers are within a radius of about 20 km. He also gets work from companies further afield: "But then only through my personal network, like people I know from college".
It's nearly the end of the chopping season. The customers' silos are already full from the high yields this year. "Actually, we're done much earlier this year. We were able to start chopping in September, but due to the rain, the harvest had to be stopped for two weeks before it started again". The first customer today has a 3-hectare corn field located right on a main road. The area is at 600 m above sea level and shrouded in dense fog. "I hope we can chop OK," says Enslein, somewhat concerned at first. "The fog isn't the problem, but the ground is still pretty wet. And we need to make sure we don't leave dirt on the road in and out of the field. The customer organises the pick-up chain itself. We just provide the chopper. Customers are often hands-on and come and help out, but we do offer a full range of services related to chopping, transport and rolling. We use up to three chopping columns. Various tandem and tridem trailers collect and for good compaction on the silo we use our 1050 Fendt for rolling".
Slowly, his chopper, a Fendt Katana, begins chopping the first rows of the run-out. The tyres have no problem gripping. The pickup team also starts off smoothly and the first corn plants fall. The cobs are well defined, there is minimal damage made by the corn borers, and Enslein estimates the yield to be about 50 t/ha. But a bigger problem than the borer is wild boar. "On some run-outs, they break everything, and even while the chopper's passing through the rows, you can still see the odd one out in the fields. The wild boars have done all the work there and there is nothing left of the corn, except for a few decayed, withered stems on the ground.
Contractor Enslein bought his first Katana in 2012. At that time, he made the decision to go into the chopping business as well as the wood chipping service he already offered. Other shredder brands made their mark with the region's contractors, and Enslein consciously wanted to break away from that. He also only drives Fendt tractors himself, and is happy with the quality. "We didn't have to re-learn anything, because the chopper works just like the tractor". The comfort of the ride is also better with the sprung rear axle. "Besides, it's vital to me that the machine keeps running. We haven't had a single breakdown for the whole season – in the grass, the GPS or the corn! In terms of the chopping quality, I attach great importance to the grains not being only slashed but nicely open. There shouldn't be any whole grains. The Katana has six prepress rollers built-in, which has a good impact on the quality of the chopping. We usually chop to 7 mm, as we chop almost exclusively for dairy farms. But that's up to the farmer to decide and my drivers discuss this with them before work starts".
The contracting company is very much about one-to-one communication. Enslein doesn't rate the impersonal way of placing orders online. "I can explain things better in person. I'm rather old-school like that. It's how I get across to my customers what I find important".
As well as quality work, he value his acceptance in the community and a good working atmosphere. But that takes a lot of effort, as he explains: "Good image is very important. People need to know what's going on and why the tractors have to drive past their front door this week. That works best through personal conversations. I have two children, and contact with other children and their parents helped a lot with communication. If the children are excited about it, so are the parents".
Dirty roads and night work are sometimes inevitable, but should remain the exception, in his opinion. "It's your responsibility as a contractor," he says, and he honours that with his customers. His employees carry a time-pass that can be filled up during the harvest and used up in the spring. One other thing is very important to him: "All my machines should always be in the best condition. This includes being cleaned and fully functional when they arrive at the customer".
Shredder driver, Sebastian, demonstrates this winning agreement between him and his employees, after continuing to chop the corn in the fog without any problems and returning the machine to the premises. He briefly removes most of the clumps of dirt and cleans all the major areas with jet air. "Now we have a bit of a break before we start with the grass chopping from noon," says Sebastian.
When the first Katana arrived at Enslein in June 2012, the contractor got right into the harvest. "When we harvested the corn, it was clear what the machine was capable of and we knew how the technology worked," explains Enslein. The company now runs three machines. "We drive two 2015 65-series Katanas with V8 Mercedes engines. The other is an S4 machine from 2016. Every machine does about 600 hours a year. It's important to us that we adapt the machine to suit our work. These settings may differ from the manufacturer's specifications, but we have spent many hours with the Katana, so we know the chopper inside and out. Our workshop foreman Florian knows the machines especially well, down to the very last screw. If you know what to look for, you can get even more quality results out of the machine".
The company always covers its new machines with breakage insurance. The choppers usually run for four years before they are exchanged for new ones. It is part of the philosophy of the contracting company that they can always work with the latest and greatest machines on behalf of the customer.
The customer, who is waiting for Enslein to start work in the afternoon, is the neighbouring farmer, and his fields are located right next to the company's premises. On the stroke of lunchtime, the clouds parted to allow the wet areas to dry up again. While the farmer mows the last sections, Florian's rakes the swath. Driver Sebastian goes back to the chopper and starts working. They work smoothly as a pair and the last cut is quickly done. "We were able to harvest five cuts this year", explains the contractor. "Although the conditions weren't always easy, we picked up a good harvest. The work makes particularly quick progress on these run-outs. At about 11 hectares, this grassland is an exceptionally large area. Most of the run-outs are between 2 and 3 hectares in size".
As well as farmland and grassland, the landscape is dominated by forest. The contracting company also has two wood chippers with which Enslein chops wood for up to 200 private customers as well as for heating power plants. The newer machine can chop stalks of up to 0.90 × 1.20 m so the tractor that drives that machine needs plenty of power. Enslein uses a 1050-series Fendt. "I really believe that good work resonates with customers and that's why we rely on powerful, high-performance machines".
At the end of the season Enslein get back to work on cleaning, maintenance and repair. "But only the choppers are polished, because they are definitely going to stay inside until next harvest," says Enslein at the end of our visit.
Source: LU-Spezial Dezember 2017, Beckmann Verlag, Großschlepper für Lohnunternehmer, Sonderausgabe für Fendt